*This is the first of a series of 5 posts I will doing on this subject*
Miscarriage seems to be an event in our society that is clouded in a hue of secrecy and confusion. Time and time again, I hear women share stories of their loss that are riddled with pain. I’m not talking about the pain of the miscarriage itself, although that is one giant weight in our chest for a long time, and in some ways forever. I’m talking about the pain of having to endure a series of inappropriate comments and actions from the people around them as well as a sincere lack of good actions. Not only does a family attempting to mentally and physically deal with the toll of losing a beloved child, they also now have to navigate the murky waters of the unintentional thoughtlessness of some, AND, the silence/ inaction of others.
When people in our lives go through difficult times, it can often be hard to know what to do or what to say. What do they need? How much is too much? Will I be annoying? More often than not, the people going through the loss are not entirely certain as to what they need. Many people in their 20-somethings or 30-somethings have not been through very many serious crises to know how to properly respond. Either it has not happened to us, or it has not happened to anyone we know. We cannot know what we haven’t experienced. Common sense in all life experiences is built from exactly that…life experience.
Some people are naturally good at knowing what to say and do in tough situations, others have to work at it more. People are awkward, situations are awkward. Sometimes in these intense times, there are a lot of awkward moments because emotions are high. And that is okay. We live, learn, and forgive . This past year was a difficult one for my family. One that included a miscarriage of our own. One thing I learned for sure during my difficult 2015 is that walking with someone through loss/suffering/crisis is a life skill. And like any skill, it is one that needs to be practiced with intention. For if we are to walk with people through life, experience heartache, joy, peace, and loss, we have to learn how to be a good friend. This is the good stuff life is made of.
Even though I have walked with many people through tough times, I learned infinitely more about being a good friend when it was my time to receive. To my shame, I have hurt people in the past during their time of devastation. It caused me and them pain. I hope these tips helps you be the best version of yourself, and as such, you will be able to adequately be there for the people in your life who need that version.
A guiding principle to follow when helping any friend through any crisis is: Be Intentional, Ask, Offer, Don’t Bombard. You should adjust these suggestions I’m giving based on your friendship and the personality of your friend. For example, if your friend is more introverted maybe check in every few days, not every day. However, it should not change the quality of your love and care for her, and thats what I want to discuss in my series. So… adjust as needed 🙂
1. Be Intentional With Your Words
Don’t let your sympathy be left at “I’m sorry for your loss.” I know some people feel as though they are being invasive, or annoying if they offer something. You aren’t. Alot of the time, people who have experienced loss don’t really know what they need other than love, comfort, and hope. But usually we know what we don’t need, so offer and we will tell you if the action etc is helpful. Don’t be pushy, but rather, find a balance between offering yourself as a gift, and making it about you ( I learned this the hard way).Be willing to reasonably sacrifice your time, and be intentional. Make it easy for the person who is struggling to know you are there but don’t leave your love at a statement that really bears no fruit. Here are some things you can say beyond that rehearsed line to make your sympathy known, and offer yourself without being overwhelming:
How are you doing today?
I love you.
Is there anything you need? I’m here for you. Don’t hesitate to ask me for anything.”
I want to be with you. I’m sorry I can’t be, but I love you and am with you in spirit.
” I want to bring you something. When is a good time? Check with husband? Great I will . I love you. Go back to bed.” (my favorite)
(in person).. just hugs and a simple “I’m sorry this is hard, I wish there was something I could do to stop this from happening”
“Are you thinking of naming the baby, and/or having a burial ceremony? Would you like me to research costs for you?”
” This is hard. We are with you during this hard time.”
” Your baby knew they were loved. That is so much.”
“We all wanted your baby. ” (man that one touched me so much, I might cry all over again..)
I don’t know what to say right now. But I’m here. I’m with you.
LESS GOOD THINGS TO SAY:
“You will get pregnant again soon. Don’t worry.” (no such thing as a replacement baby)
“Here are some maternity clothes for when you are pregnant the next time.”
“Well it wasn’t really a baby yet. “.. or as the doctor at the hospital said, ” If you are having a miscarriage, its because something is wrong with the baby. And you wouldn’t want that baby anyway.”
“Spontaneous abortion” as a way of describing miscarriage is like a dagger to the heart for girls who have had one. Why? Even though it is the correct medical term used today to describe miscarriage, abortion is an extremely negative word describing the intentional act of killing your baby. Therefore, using such a harsh word associated with intentional death, in the context of describing the agony of a very unintentional and unwanted death, is salt in the wound. As much as possible, do not use terms that link abortion and miscarriage any more than necessary. It would be like if your grandfather died, and someone said ” Ya.. that’s like spontaneous euthanasia”. Actually, not at all. Just because you have a dead body from each situation, it does not mean those situations are alike. So.. just don’t.
“At least you have some kids”
“When are you going to start trying again?” (Though well intentioned, perhaps let the girl experiencing the loss guide this kind of sharing. Asking this question too soon feels like a minimizing of the loss endured.)
“You were barely pregnant”
“Maybe it’s for the best”
AFTER THE MISCARRIAGE IS PHYSICALLY OVER:
Put really simply, still check in a week or two after.. even a month . All the above statements are still good. Alot of people forget that grief goes on for a while for many people. We will unpack this in another post.
I believe that people are good and have the best of intentions when saying all of these things. Referring to the awkwardness I talked about above, often times we say the wrong thing when trying to understand something that we are having a difficult time understanding. Our life experience has not prepared us for this moment. I know I definitely have been that person. Let’s not dwell on that anymore, but simply seek to learn. This is not about blame, this is about learning a skill. If you can learn to walk with someone even through one crisis, you will be better the next time, and even better after that.
Forgive anyone in your life who has unintentionally hurt you. If you are a person reading this who has unintentionally said something untoward to someone, go and say sorry, or, just be better next time 🙂
ps. stay tuned for #2: What to Give